Italian Pasta Salad

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Over the summer, we spent a weekend in Colorado and met up with a dear friend (our accountant, actually, who of course I became dear friends with) and his wife who was also a dental school classmate of mine. It was the first time we saw friends since the stay-at-home mandate and it was our first sign of normalcy, an indication that things would eventually be okay.

They were hosting us in their lovely backyard and as I watched them wrangle their two kids, put one down for a nap, entertain a talkative other, turn on a grill, make burgers, grill hot dogs, and continue a constant flow of conversation, I thought to myself, “Man these people are super heroes!” Which, I suppose, all parents are.

But the thing that stood out to me the most was when we sat down for lunch, with the older one seated at the end in his floating high chair and the table set for five, my friend turns and pulls out this pre-made pasta salad and a bowl of already chopped fruit from the fridge to add to our awesome burger and hot dog feast. I remember thinking to myself, “Genius!”

I am all about pre-making meals when hosting gatherings but sometimes, in between wanting to impress guests and wanting to serve fresh food, I do forget that the simpler things are usually best. What amazed me most about our friends was that they weren’t running around trying to pick up toys from the floor. They weren’t trying to prevent their kids from running around in the yard. They weren’t concerned about the details of the table setting. They were concerned about whether we wanted another beer or how much ice cream serving is good enough. They focused on their guests alone and I think that when you have two kids and two dogs, you should get a medal for that type of stuff.

I’m sure this isn’t the exact same Italian pasta salad that she served, but that is another great thing about recipes such as these. You can make them on the fly with whatever ingredients you have in stock and they turn out just as great. This recipe is easily made in big batches and it actually tastes better after a day of being in the fridge, soaking up the dressing’s goodness. Plus it looks good in any container.

My parents recently hosted a BBQ themselves and I made a huge batch of this and saved half for us (which we ate with salmon a couple meals in a row) and brought half to the party. I can’t believe I wasn’t making this sooner. It was such a breeze.

Ingredients:

  • Rotini or Bow Tie Pasta (1 lb)
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 cup of small tomatoes
  • 1 cup of pitted olives
  • Other additions/veggies you want to add. Examples include bell peppers, roasted eggplant, roasted squash, pickled carrots, and more.
  • Italian Dressing, to taste
  • Feta cheese to crumble on top
  • Black pepper, to taste.

The Process:

I think the process is rather self-explanatory but here it is in a nutshell.

  1. Boil pasta according to the box instructions. Drain and shock in a bowl of cold water. If you skip shocking the pasta and toss the salad when it’s warm, the noodles will stick together and have a gummy consistency.
  2. Cut cucumber, tomatoes, and olives into similar sized pieces. You want this pasta salad to be easy to eat, which means you want everything to be about the same size.
  3. Mix pasta with fruit and veggies, toss with Italian Dressing, and top with Feta cheese and freshly crushed black pepper.

NOTE: You may notice that we have red onion in this pasta salad. Red onion has a pretty potent flavor and you don’t want to detract from the rest of the salad. If you do add red onion, you can soak it in the dressing prior to adding it in. I myself place cut red onions into a mason jar and soak for at least fifteen minutes so that the dressing pulls out some of the red onion’s harshness. It will also give the onion a sweeter, pickled taste. I toss both onion and dressing with the salad in step 3.

For those interested, the plates are side plates in Morel from East Fork Pottery and the coasters are Herringbone in Black from Fog Linen.

Play Pretend: Hunkering Down

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Hunkering down in our homes isn’t really much of a game of pretend. Hopefully, you’ve settled quite nicely into a rhythm that works for you. Now that you have a routine for the kids, and a feel for separating work from home (if you are so lucky), I guess it’s time to accept the idea that staying at home will become the new norm. Who knows what will happen when this is all over? Perhaps companies will find work-from-home more efficient or productive. Perhaps mothers will decide that home-schooling has its benefits over private school. Perhaps those who are jobless create a niche for themselves as a small business owner. Perhaps we may remain, forevermore, at home.

I’ve been spending my own time reflecting on the functions of my home. I have been put-putting around the house reclaiming our space and making it the zen oasis that my lifestyle needs. A home is more than the house itself. It is a recluse from the outside world, a reflection of our personal self, and as such, should not be neglected or taken lightly. Therefore, my days have been spent remodeling our sustainable couch (more on that in a future post), and clearing the air of clutter and negative energy.

With the realization that parks and beaches may not be accessible to us in the near future, possibly even as far as the summer months, I have also decided to finally focus on our small city balcony. I will be remodeling that into a relaxing outdoor space that we can escape to, when sunlight basking and fresh air are what we need. I am a person who needs to have natural sunlight, be surrounded by nature, and breath in fresh air. Last summer, we religiously parked our bottoms on beach sand every single weekend, and it pains me to hear that beaches and parks are closing in response to COVID-19. In response to the response, I will be creating our own outdoors in this tiny home. I will also share that remodel in the coming months as we document it.

For now though, I traverse the dangerous road of having too much time on my hands. Making our house a home, a thing I haven’t had much time for since we made our measly renovations when we first bought the place, could lead to spending money in excess. I wrote previously about how property ownership does not have to be a dream home at the get-go and I am one who likes to take all things slow, including making purchasing decisions for creating a space dedicated to hunkering down.

I don’t have any rules persay as to the number of hours or days that I have to mull over a potential purchase, but I do prefer to wait. I like to absorb all the feelings, consider all the motives, peruse the alternatives occasionally if space in my heart allows. Sometimes, you just love a thing too much, you know? So in these cases where I feel a burning desire to tackle a project of reformation, I try to simply list my wants and play pretend. Let the fire simmer down, if you will, until my brain has had time to catch up with my heart.

Here, a few finds made to create a space for comfort. These are things that I think would help turn a home into an oasis worth settling in, from companies that I would love to support and see survive past this small-business drought. And with these items, a small anecdote on how I envision them in my own life.

+ A pair of Kygries slippers or these lighter linen alternatives from Fog Linen for walking around cool, clean cement floors while providing a cushion for the feet.

+ Kinto day-off tumbler or Kinto tea pots in the name of staying healthy and hydrated.

+ Fog Linen socks for lounging around on the couch or in bed, whether your space be in home-mode or work-mode.

+ Vitruvi Humidifier for refreshing the air cooped up at home. 

+ The Beauty of Everyday Things for reminding us that maybe we already have all that we need.

+ Citizenry Linen Throw Pillow Covers + Parachute Throw Pillows for sinking deeper into that couch or bed or floor, what-have-ye.

+ Notary Ceramics tray, reminiscent of TV dinners during childhood, to hold teapots and mugs of coffee on preferred soft surfaces. 

+ Cleaning supplies, for a bout of spring cleaning.